End of the Semester Rush

168th Street Train Platform

With the end of the semester fast approaching and the amount of work I have to do becoming ever more depressing, I haven’t had time to really think about and process my trip to Israel. I haven’t looked through the photos. I certainly haven’t had time to blog about it in any depth. I could rush some posts and throw some pictures up here, but that wouldn’t really do the experience any justice. So, I’ll have to wait and hopefully I won’t forget too much before I have a chance to get it written down. Or typed down?

Anyway, for now, here are some cool photos I took of the C train and 168th street train station in Manhattan.

The C train sitting in the 168th Street station.
The C train sitting in the 168th Street station.
168th Street Train Platform
168th Street Train Platform

NYC Crazy: “Don’t Sit On My Legs”

It seems like there’s an endless number of crazy people in New York City, and an endless variety of the types of craziness they may be suffering from.  I encountered another one tonight on my way home, on the train this time.

I had to stand for the first leg of the trip, but when we reached the 1st stop, a seat was freed up, so I moved to sit down.  It was one of the benches at the end of the train car, where there are only two seats in the row.  The other seat, the one closer to the front of the train car, was occupied by a small black lady, dressed fairly regularly, gnawing on a lollipop like a crazed beaver trying to gnaw down a tree.  I figured she looked harmless enough so I took the other seat.

I’d barely sat down when the woman said, “Oh you can sit down, but I have big legs so watch that you don’t sit on my legs.”

I wasn’t sure I heard her right, so I asked her if she could repeat herself.

“I have big legs.  You can sit, but you have to be careful that you don’t sit on them.”

I looked at the woman’s legs.  They were shorter than mine and no bigger than any other average sized person.  She was actually a small woman.  So, of course, I realized she’s crazy and I had to defuse her craziness so that she wouldn’t turn into a violent lunatic and make the next few minutes on the train unpleasant.

“Oh, don’t worry.  I won’t sit on your legs.  I’ll just mind my business over here and play a game on my phone.”

I had indeed been planning to play a game on my phone.  I’d downloading something during my break where you try to free a particular block from a puzzle to clear a stage.  I had my phone in my hand already and had opened the game.  I was hoping that this would cause the woman to realize that I didn’t want to bother her, and that I was preoccupied and not ready to talk to her.

Instead, it backfired.

“Oh, games! I like games! What game is that? It’s some new one huh?”

She then proceeded to reach over and start pushing buttons below the screen on my phone.  I thought about getting up and moving away but you never know what might happen, what a crazy person might say, do or have on them that could be potentially lethal to the innocent sane people around them, so I decided the best way to get past the problem was to just humor her.

So, I sat there, trying to explain to her that she had to use the touchscreen to move the pieces.  I didn’t let go of my phone of course, and it was sort of amusing to watch this old woman getting pissed off over a touch screen game where the blocks only move in certain directions.  She couldn’t seem to figure that out.  Horizontal blocks only move horizontally and vertical blocks only go vertically.

“What the fuck? You do this. Move that motherfucker right there over that way.  Get that block out of the way. How the fuck does this thing work? This shit won’t move!”  She was stabbing at my phone with her bony fingers, cursing, getting irritated, and still gnawing on her lollipop.  I saw several sprays of saliva fly from her mouth, thankfully onto the floor, and just as I thought I was going to have to risk her flipping out and accusing me of everything from picking on an old lady to racism to having a magic game that fucked her over, or perhaps swinging at me with her bag, the train pulled into the next station, my station, and I excused myself and got off the train.

As I exited the train I heard the woman say, “You have to be careful with your bags if you’re going to sit down. I have big legs.”

And a woman replied, “Oh, did I hit your legs with my bag? I’m sorry.”

“No, it’s just that I have…” I heard her saying, and then I was too far away to hear.

I think from now on, I’ll just stand.  Or at least not sit next to anyone past the age of 40.  It’s only two stops anyway.

Man Got Wedged Between Train and Platform at Union Square Station Last Night

Last night there was an accident in the Union Square train station that required an ambulance and firefighters to respond.

I first realized there was something going on when I was trying to board the train at a station further uptown on the same line.  An announcement was made in the station saying that the express trains would all be running on local tracks in the area around Union Square.  The express trains left on the usual track, but after leaving the station they switched over the local tracks, which seemed to make the trip take a lot longer.

When the express train pulled up to the local platform in Union Square I made sure to pay attention to where I was stepping.  Sure enough, there was an almost foot long gap between the side of the train car and the platform.  It seemed dangerous.

Emergency responders in Union Square station, where a man was wedged between the train and the platform.Right across from me there was a train sitting on the track in the center of Union Square station.  It was sectioned off from the rest of the station by yellow tape.  All but one of the stairs heading up to the next level were being sectioned off as well.  The area was also full of firefighters, medics, and, of course, spectators.

Emergency responders in Union Square station, where a man was wedged between the train and the platform.

I asked a couple that was standing there watching what had happened.  They told me that on the other side of the train from where we were, there’s a moving platform that closes the gap between the train car floor and the platform, for safety reasons.  It’s supposed to help prevent people from falling between the train and the platform.

Emergency responders in Union Square station, where a man was wedged between the train and the platform.

Well, somehow, a guy got ahead of himself and maybe didn’t wait for the platform to move, so he got himself wedged between the train and the platform.  He must have been stuck in there pretty good, too, because they couldn’t just retract the platform.  The firefighters I saw had hooks and crowbars to try to get him out.

After the guy had been freed from the train, emergency responders disappeared quickly.

I never saw the guy, but a few minutes after I got to the station, a firefighter told us the guy got out and he was ok.  He had remained conscious the entire time and had been talking to him.  So, everything ended well, but it was a really interesting scene, with the area packed tight with emergency responders and a whole train cordoned off.

Emergency vehicles outside Union Square station.

Emergency vehicles outside Union Square station.

New York City’s subway system is by no means new.  It’s falling apart in a lot of places and the whole thing could use a facelift.  I’m sure you could tell that from the photos.

NYC Crazy: “You need to back the fuck up off me, bro.”

Today, on the way home, I got another dose of crazy while using public transit.  While I was standing on the platform, waiting for my train to show up, I saw a coworker, so we started talking about some crazy stuff that had happened during the day.  When the train finally arrived, we snagged some open seats and talked until we got to my stop, Union Square.

This is where things took a turn for the bizarre.  As the train pulled into the station and started to slow, I stood up and crossed to the side where the doors would open.  I gripped the rail with my right hand, the one that runs from the floor to the ceiling at the end of the row of seats, and I held my hat in my left hand.  There was a guy standing in front of me.  He was a black man, and well dressed.  When the train stopped, the doors didn’t open right away.  He looked over his shoulder at me.  Then he shifted a bit and turned half towards me and mumbled something.  I didn’t quite catch it so I just ignored him and put my hat on, so my hands would be free for the climb up the stairs from the platform into the station.

When the doors opened and we started to get off the train he said something to me again, but I still couldn’t hear it over the noise, so I leaned a little closer to him and said, “Pardon?”

“You need to back the fuck up off me, bro.”

Uhhh.  Well, we were walking with the group of people all rushing for the stairs, so I didn’t give it too much mind.  It’s not like a person can expect to have a lot of free space in that situation.

When we turned the corner of the rail and started up the stairs, the guy looked back and when he saw me, he jumped a bit, like he was surprised, and then bolted up the stairs, taking them three at a time.  When he hit the top, he took off at a dead run through the station.

The woman next to me gave me a questioning look.  I shrugged and said, “Crazy fucker.  He thought I was following him or standing too close to him or something.”  She just smiled and shook her head, as if she’d seen it before herself.  I suppose she had.  New York City seems to be half full of crazy people at any given time.

I understand that people have a desire for personal space, and that desire is magnified when living in a congested city, constantly surrounded by people, but this guy’s reaction was unreasonable given the circumstances.  I wonder what exactly set him off this time?  I was dressed in business casual, chatting with another person in business casual, and I didn’t act oddly when I positioned myself to exit the train at a stop, so it’s not realistic for him to have thought I was a potential robber.  It’s also not reasonable to expect to have no one behind you when exiting a train at a station, or when climbing the stairs to the platform.

In any case, this just reinforces the fact that when you’re in New York City you have to stay aware of the people around you.  You never know who might snap, or when, or why.

New York City Express Train Gymnastics and Dancing

A night or two ago I was on the express train, either the 4 or 5 (they run the same track), heading to Union Square, and this guy announced that he was going to give us a performance.  He reached into a plastic bag on the floor and turned on his radio.  Then he did some gymnastics and dancing using the bars in the train that you’re meant to hold onto.  I was a bit worried that he might accidentally kick someone in the head, maybe me since I was sitting so close.  He pulled it off without incident though, and it was definitely entertaining after a long day, so when he asked for a handout afterwards, quite a few people gave him some change.  I gave him a dollar.

I never hand out money to beggars, because it annoys me and there are plenty of social programs to help them get a job, but I don’t mind handing out a little cash to someone that’s working for it, even if it’s just a minute long show on a subway train.

Kuala Lumpur’s Monorail and Pickpockets

In addition to a train system, Kuala Lumpur has a monorail system.  It’s fun to ride, but it’s really slow in comparison to a train, which makes me wonder why they bothered to build it at all.  I suppose the answer is that the distance between the stops is so short that having a train run that route wouldn’t make sense.  Also, the route is very curvy.

The stations are almost identical to train stations.  You have to get in line and buy your ticket, then you insert the ticket into the turn-style, wait for it to pop up from the center of the machine and grab it as you walk through.

The ticketing system that Kuala Lumpur uses for its trains and monorail is absolutely ridiculous.  The lines of people waiting to buy a ticket are sometimes incredibly long to the point that they block other pedestrians trying to use the sidewalks outside the station.  They need to get with the times and do what Singapore does and just use a prepaid transit card.  It’s much, much more efficient.

Anyhow, you go up to the platform, wait for the monorail to show up and then go about your business.

The monorail cars themselves are nice.  There’s plenty of seating and space to stand.  It also has a lot of windows so you can see the area around you.  When the monorail takes a sharp turn, the track and the whole monorail tilts, which is a little unnerving.  Better than walking or taking the cab though.

Some interesting things to note are that the train platforms don’t have what I like to call “dummy doors” around the tracks.  There is a waist-high railing, but they expect people to use common sense when it comes to standing to close to openings where the monorail doors open.  I guess they don’t have any issues with people trying to leap in front of the monorail to kill themselves.  The actual train stations, on the other hand, which are underground, do have the extra doors.  I think that’s more for keeping the air conditioning in the station than anything else.  New York City should follow that example.  It gets hotter than Satan’s anus in those train stations in the summer.

There are signs on the platforms warning you to be wary of pickpockets.  As the monorail train approaches people have a tendency to push towards the openings where the doors will open.  When people start packing close together like that, it’s a great opportunity for people to get pickpocketed.

I know that from personal experience.  Some little punk ass kid tried to pick my pocket while I was waiting for the monorail this past trip.  He was wearing a coat draped over his shoulders to hide the fact that his opposite hand was reaching from under the edge of the coat to try to get into my pocket.  Tough luck for the bastard that I’m not an oblivious idiot… and that I wore shorts with pockets that button.

I knew something was up with the kid because when I moved he kept moving up next to me.  When I felt the tug at my pocket I pushed him away from me.  He should feel glad that I didn’t accidentally push him in front of the monorail while trying to get him away from me.  Even if the monorail hadn’t hit him it’s a long way down to the ground.

So, ya, keep an eye on your belongings while you’re there.  Most of KL is pretty safe looking, but so is Singapore and people are getting stabbed in broad daylight here now.

Getting Around In Singapore (Transportation)

One of the first thing a person wants to know when they move somewhere is how they’re going to get around.  Singapore’s got you covered on that one.  It has one of the best public transportation systems I’ve ever seen and there are sidewalks and walking bridges everywhere.  Here are some details:

The Bus:

The most common method of public transportation in Singapore is one we’re all familiar with.  There are two types of buses in Singapore.  There are the regular buses, and then there are double-decker buses like the one the above photo was taken in.  I love those double-decker buses.  When you get a good seat up towards the front of one, every short trip feels like a tour!  You can get a good view of what’s around you while you’re traveling, unless you get on one that has an advertisement covering the front glass.  That’s a bit annoying.  Of course, the view isn’t the only thing that’s great about the buses in Singapore.  They also have piped in television.  The shows that are playing are usually interesting and the audio is pretty clear, unless it’s rush hour and the passengers on the bus are talking.  One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that people on buses (and trains) in Singapore are fairly quiet compared to other places I’ve lived.  In fact, there is often a subdued atmosphere.

The Train:

The train system in Singapore is very efficient.  There are quite a few lines that cover the island.  In fact, there are very few places in Singapore that are outside of walking distance to the nearest MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) station.  Here’s a map:


(Note: The Pioneer and Joo Koon stations on the East West Line are now complete. A portion of the Circle Line in the Serangoon area is also now complete.)

As you can see, the train system is extensive, with more lines being constructed.

The trains themselves are well kept and clean.  There isn’t any piped in TV like on the bus, but it’s usually a short ride.  For example, you could ride the East West Line from one end of the island to the other in about an hour.  One of the interesting things about the trains here is that the wallspace, floorspace, windowspace, and any other space that can be covered by an ad can and often is.  As you can see in the image above, the entire interior of the train was decorated with an advertisement for Baron’s beer.  The outside sported a similar design as well.  At least they did a good job and it’s interesting.

Payment

Before I move on I wanted to mention how you pay for your rides.  On the bus you can either use exact change or a transit card called an EZ-Link card.  It’s a smarter move to go for the card because if you pay cash you have to pay more for the ride. I think it has to do with fees the banks charge to process coin deposits, but that’s just a wild guess.  As for the EZ-Link cards you can buy them at the MRT stations.  when you buy one there is an initial cost that I can’t remember, but it’s minimal and the card comes pre-loaded with (I think) a 10 SGD credit.  After that, you can deposit more money to it through a window teller, or one of the automated machines in the MRT stations.  The EZ-Link card is a smart card.  You don’t even have to take it out of your wallet when you make a payment with it.  As you enter and leave the bus or train station you tap your card on a pad that registers the entry or exit.  The fare is based on the distance you traveled, which is more fair than a flate rate in my opinion.

Other Methods To Get Around:

Though I don’t recommend riding 3 persons to a bicycle, like this lovely bunch above, it is a great way to get around here.  I don’t own a bicycle myself, but I’ve been considering making the investment.  Singapore has a lot of great, wide sidewalks and in some cases dedicated bicycle paths.  Located at most MRT stations there are racks designed for locking bicycles, and even when there isn’t people lock their bicycles to anything they can find.  A cheap bicycle can be bought for around 75 – 100 SGD and at that price you can usually talk a store owner into throwing in a free bell and basket.  From what I’ve seen, helmets aren’t required here, but I think it’s a finable offense if you don’t use your bell to warn pedestrians on the sidewalk that you’re coming.

Last but not least, if you want some fresh air, you could do this: